For thousands of years, indigenous hunters have actively and sustainably managed turtle and dugong populations through their cultural practices.
Hunting cultures around the world are by necessity engaged in, and concerned with, the long-term viability of the species they hunt.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009, serious concern exists for the threatened dugong. However, the report says “remote coast populations (north of Cooktown) have been relatively stable since aerial surveys began in 1985”.
Researchers use a variety of methods to learn about dugongs and marine turtles living in the coastal waters of the eastern Cape York Peninsula. A combination of aerial surveys and satellite tracking has been used to estimate the population and movement of individual dugongs and turtles.
Counting turtle tracks is another way of estimating the number of nesting turtles using a beach. However, it is unreliable when there are large numbers as the individual tracks become too hard to count such as the case on Raine Island and Sand Bank Number 8.
To date, there has been much more focus on the western communities of Cape York which have been working hard to minimise the threats of turtle predation by feral pigs. While saving baby turtles is important so, too, is collecting data which is critical to targeting conservation efforts for turtle and dugong populations.
Engaging Traditional Owners
The land and sea centre is working with Traditional Owners to monitor, record and share information which will help to manage the traditional use of marine resources while looking after turtle and dugong populations for future generations.
Traditional Owners are engaged in the Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements (TUMRA) process and have long expressed a desire to be involved in traditional hunting management including the introduction of quotas and permit systems.
Indigenous land and sea rangers are ideally placed to compliment existing efforts to re-implement traditional hunting management structures by enforcing cultural protocols and restricting poaching.
Currently, the land and sea centre is not adequately equipped to help the community realise their sea country management aspirations.